Is Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism Turning Into a Tumor?

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Like a genius footballer showing off his magical dribbling skills in front of wowed onlookers and fans, the Ethiopian Prime Minster dazzled Ethiopians and the world with a plethora of political reforms ranging from freeing prisoners of conscious to making peace with Ethiopia’s arch-enemy and neighbor, Iasias Afework.

Superficially, the PM’s reforms resemble a vast field of blossoming flowers teeming with life heaven for millions of Ethiopians where hope and peace intersect and meet.

Sadly, behind the smile and tranquility of the PM, an inter-ethnic monster is writhing in agony and sooner or later the glue holding Ethiopia together centrally may melt, with devastating consequence. Already close to two million people are displaced by inter-ethnic violence.

Instead of a territorial federal system, the TPLF borrowed toxic communist ideology and fused it with its own brand of ethnic ideology, essentially resulting in ethnic privileges for the ruling TPLF and ethnic colonization for other Ethiopian ethnic groups. An Ethiopia that’s colonized itself was born.

For example, today an ethnic Amhara person will struggle to compete for a job in Oromia or Somali or Afar regions for the simple reason he or she is not regarded as an indigenous Oromo, Somali or Afar –even if this person was born in any of these regions. He/she is a foreigner as far as the current ethnic federal system is concerned.

Though around 90 different ethnic groups call Ethiopia home, the existing nine regional states are run and dominated by the majority ethnic groups. The rest eighty-one ethnic groups remain minorities with no region of their own. They are silent subordinates in each of the nine regions.

Ethiopia’s history of never being colonized by invading outsiders is slowly transforming into inter-ethnic colonization. Each ethnic group that comes to power monopolizes power and economic privileges while the rest feel marginalized and voiceless.

Some of the nine regions are technically at war with each other on land, resources, and territory. People who once lived in peace and described themselves as Ethiopians are now labeling each as foreigners or invaders.

Ethiopia’s new political reform is like growing corn on an ethnic volcano field that may erupt any time before harvesting the crop as the meaning of being Ethiopian gradually becomes obsolete.

As Ethiopia moves towards 2020 elections, inter-ethnic rivalry and tension are exacerbating. The toxic ethnic politics is likely to intensify and might unleash more chaos if the federal government fails to address the rotting ethnic politics with clear communication to counter the poisonous rhetoric of antagonistic regional politics.

Already tension is building up between OLF and the federal government and may escalate into something more ominous.

Dumping the ethnic federalism may be inevitable to salvage the dying Ethiopian identity.

If not, the ethnic tumor may mutate into cancer and spread, devouring the body and soul of Ethiopia.

Kassim Haji-Hussein Noor